Begambleaware GamCare eCogra Verisign

Charity Manager Spared Jail Following £18,000 Theft to Play Bingo

fundraising manager steal 18k pounds
Listen to this articleListen to this article:

For the vast majority of people, bingo is harmless fun and for the lucky few, it results in life-changing prizes. However, despite the best efforts of gambling regulators and operators, there are those who do suffer from gambling harm.

The leading online bingo sites put a huge emphasis on responsible gambling and have several tools to help their members ensure that playing remains fun and free of negative consequences. Yet, the system is not perfect and this was starkly illustrated by the following case where a woman stole £18,000 from charity in order to pay for her bingo addiction.

Natasha Mason stole money that she helped to raise at car washes for The Fire Fighters Charity, which aims to help firefighters live healthier and happier lives. A regional fundraising team manager for the company, she was caught when discrepancies were noticed between the amount raised and the amount deposited.

Mason appeared in Salisbury Crown Court, where her defence lawyer explained that bingo was a form of “escapism” that provided her with a “haven” from a “toxic and abusive” 25-year marriage. The 46-year-old pleaded guilty and wept with relief when she was spared jail by Judge Timothy Mousley KC.

Instead, Mason was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months and instructed to complete 15 rehabilitation activity days and receive mental health treatment.

Abusing a Position of Trust

During the hearing, prosecutor Joshua Bowker explained that Mason had worked with the charity since 2010.

“The charity provides support for those in the fire service from the time they join until beyond retirement. She would attend events at various fire stations. In November 2020, the charity became aware of a discrepancy in what was being raised at events and what was being banked. They wrote to the defendant about where just under £3,700 was.”

He went on to say that Mason felt “disgusted” with herself for stealing the money and that she repaid it immediately. Nonetheless, the charity “remained concerned” and asked Mason to “disclose any other incidents.”

Initially, it was thought that she had paid back too much money and the charity refunded her roughly £700. However, following additional police inquiries in 2021, the police interviewed her about 64 separate charity events, most of which were car washes.

Bowker said, “At 23 of the events, she had stolen money totalling £18,677.82 and admitted further events but couldn’t quantify [the amount].”

Concerns regarding Charity’s Reputation

The Fire Fighters Charity delivered an impact statement to the Salisbury Crown Court detailing that as a result of the theft, its workers were “tarred with the same brush” and as a result, volunteers felt that their integrity was being “questioned.” Furthermore, the court was told that the theft negatively affected the charity’s reputation and could result in fewer donations.

Defending Mason, Kane Sharpe explained that the charity raises more than £8 million a year in order to provide “context” to the theft. He also highlighted that she was “ashamed” of her “terrible mistake” and explained that she was at “rock bottom” psychologically and financially when the thefts occurred.

Sharpe added:

“She is sorry to the charity and sorry for what she has done. To say this was out of character doesn’t do it justice – this was a complete aberration. She turned to bingo as a haven, as escapism.”

Finally, he highlighted that Mason was making repayments of £100 a month to the charity.

Judge Confident of Rehabilitation

While addressing Mason, Judge Mousley said:

“Stealing from your employer is always regarded by the courts as being a serious crime, particularly as it was not momentary. The serious feature of this case is you stole from a charity. You were in a position of trust, this was a breach of trust. Your intention was always that the money would be paid back. The money that you stole was used to pay off debts and household bills. For some reason you inexplicably turned to gambling, albeit at a low level.”

However, Judge Mousley said that he did not think there was a “realistic” chance of Mason reoffending and that he believe she could be rehabilitated. Furthermore, while Mason must pay the charity £5,000, the court was told that she intends to pay the full amount.

5/5 - (1 vote)
Mike Bennet
Author: Mike Bennett
Dedicated to keeping the spirit of bingo alive. I think bingo sites translate tradition into a modern context and I aim to provide our readers with the latest from the world of online bingo, including industry news, launches, and promotions.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.